Kevin O’Leary thinks the U.S. isn’t going to ditch fossil fuels any time soon.
“Unfortunately, no matter how much you think we’re getting off hydrocarbons, it’s not going to happen for 50 years,” the investor and star of the television show “Shark Tank” told Fox Business‘s “The Big Money Show” on Tuesday, dismissing renewable energy options as “not going to work.”
O’Leary also pledged to invest in a new oil refinery in the U.S., saying that he wanted to support the country’s energy independence. He suggested that he was looking for “a state that wants to work with me” to build the new facility, which he expected to cost $14 billion.
The U.S. government is trying to encourage the adoption of electric vehicles through new subsidies passed through bills like the Inflation Reduction Act. Federal and state subsidies have encouraged some car manufacturers, like Toyota and Hyundai, to build new EV manufacturing plants in the U.S. And some states, like California, are also planning to ban sales of gas-powered cars in the coming decades.
But O’Leary on Tuesday dismissed a complete rejection of hydrocarbons as impossible. “You’re not going to have a wind aircraft take you across the ocean,” he said.
The International Energy Agency projected last October that, under current policies, fossil fuel consumption will plateau within the next decade. The IEA projects that fossil fuels will make up 60% of the global energy mix by 2050, down from about 80% today.
Yet governments briefly returned to dirtier fossil fuels like coal in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year. Global coal power production capacity grew slightly in 2022, with China accounting for almost all of last year’s announcements of new coal projects, according to a report from Global Energy Monitor released last Wednesday.
But oil executives are wary that U.S. production will increase much beyond that, citing constraints in refining and regulatory issues. “We just don’t have that potential to grow U.S. production ever again,” Scott Sheffield, CEO of oil exploration company Pioneer Natural Resources, told CNBC in early March.
U.S. politicians have instead suggested that large oil companies, despite reporting record profits in 2022, are instead more focused on stock buybacks. President Joe Biden, in his State of the Union address earlier this year, accused oil companies of investing “too little” of their record profits “to increase domestic production and keep gas prices down.” (Biden also agreed that the U.S. is “still going to need oil and gas for a while” in off-script additions to his address)
For his part, O’Leary told Fox Business that he thought the problems of oil production were a policy problem. “We haven’t built a refinery in America in decades because we can’t permit it,” he said.